As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duke it out on the national stage, gender hasn’t been an issue. And that’s good news for women, no matter what Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem say.
Many thought it rude when Bernie Sanders snapped at Hillary Clinton earlier this month during a Democratic presidential debate.
He was talking about the federal Wall Street bailout, “where some of your friends destroyed this economy.”
“You know … ,” she started in response.
“Excuse me!” Sanders snapped, with a wag of his finger. “I’m talking.”
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In that moment, I saw the issue of Clinton’s gender fade. Sanders wasn’t treating her like someone’s grandmother (which she is), but as a formidable political opponent.
There’s a lot to be said for what we’re not hearing. There’s little talk about whether a woman is too emotional to be president, or how one bout of Premenstrual Syndrome could send us to war.
The highest compliment you can give a woman professional is to treat her as an equal. To address her in the same tone you would a man, to pay her the same, to give her the same rights and privileges that men have enjoyed for years.
That’s what women want and deserve. And in Clinton, there’s a light at the end of the patriarchal tunnel. A woman has never been so close to the presidency, short of being married to it.
So I understand why Madeleine Albright last month chided young women for supporting Sanders, and not helping in our last big push against the glass ceiling.
“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” Albright told a crowd. She later apologized, but I understand where she was coming from.
I once got chewed out by feminist writer Betty Friedan for not seeming grateful enough for the work she and other women did to make it possible for me to have a full-time job, child care, birth control, my name on a mortgage and a voter-registration card.
Women like her dug the foundation, built the house and kept the lights on for decades before women like me just moved right in.
The same thing is happening now; young women who never knew that kind of struggle are strolling into the House That Betty, Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Built. They’re plugging in their phones and laptops — and feeling the Bern.
But isn’t that progress, as well? For women to be empowered enough to vote based on the issues, and not just on a candidate’s gender?
Clinton knows this, saying at a Feb. 11 debate in response to Albright: “… We need to empower everyone, women and men, to make the best decisions in their minds that they can make. That’s what I’ve always stood for.”
And yet, some women will not only be standing in the voting booth, but at a crossroads of conscience: Vote for the first woman president, or for the issues?
Vote for Hillary, even if you don’t like her, trust her, want her to succeed or if you think she has fat ankles? Or wave her in like a marathoner crossing a finish line, exhausted and blistered, but a force to be reckoned with?
It may help to look to the Republican side. For a long time, those candidates rumbled along like a bus filled with sugared-up schoolchildren. It was a clown car. A sideshow.
But after last week’s Nazi salute, and punches thrown and recent hints at penis size, it’s clear that this race has become more testosterone-driven than any we’ve seen.
In Clinton, women have not only a classy alternative, but a worthy contender.
She has witnessed the presidency from inside the White House, campaigned for most of her life, served in the Senate and as secretary of state. She has participated in debates and been scrutinized not just for her earrings, but for her emails and her handling of Benghazi.
That she is a woman isn’t really the issue. Instead, it is an added bonus for those of us concerned with preserving what we’ve accomplished while we fight for reproductive rights, equal pay and paid family leave.
Clinton is simply a contender. Getting cut off mid-sentence, taking the same hits, getting back up, brushing off her pantsuit and taking some more.
That’s equality, too.